Agriculture....

"Agriculture is the Backbone of our Nation"

Sunday, 23 November 2014

RHYTHMS, RHYMES AND SEASONS

“Every labourer is a father, his labour his child. Choose your project wisely and achieve it worthily.
Once a man has decided on his life’s work and is assured that in doing the work for which he is best endowed and equipped, he is fulfilling a vital need, what he then needs is faith and integrity, compiled with a courageous spirit, so that no longer preferring himself to the attainment of his task, he may address himself to the problems he must solve in order to be effective.” H.I.M Haile Selassie I.

Nature has ways of articulating her rhythm, her heartbeat. In turn, everything rhymes with this flow and the course of events unfolds. Our willing oneness with this pulse determines whether we are within the order, or wallowing in chaos. Still, life’s cycle spins.

Torrential rains over the land
Things have gone full circle and the rains are here with us. How the heavens pour! It is time for the short rains. In this part of the tropics, there are two defined rain seasons, the ‘long’ and the ‘short’. The former commences mid-March running to early June, while the latter occurs between mid-October and early December.

The long rains signal the main planting season. During the short rains farmers may opt to sow, especially when the crop is not projected to go beyond the next February, when you have to be preparing for the next main season. Alternatively you plant crops which germinate with the short rains and fruit with the long rains, the annuals. Every opportunity of course allows for the planting of trees.
Volunteers planting lemon trees
Here at the Shiriki Organization farm in Maragua, Kenya, we glory in the commencement of a new season, and all it brings with it. We have gone ahead and planted every single inch of this soil, to ensure optimum utilization. Owing to the fact that we are not absolutely tied to seasonal crops, we strive to take full advantage of the showers, putting in new crops and embracing the boost to the growing and long term crops.

With these rains, we have planted cassava, sorghum, kidney beans, cowpeas, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, hibiscus, lemongrass, pumpkin, and various vegetables. We have also transplanted our ‘bush’ tomatoes and chillie seedlings. In addition, we have planted trees from our nurseries, including lemon, sour sop, jackfruit, tree tomato and moringa.
A patch planted with potatoes and banana
Already there were crops planted off-season, which we have been tending through irrigation. Among these are arrowroots, maize, cassava, sugarcane, sorghum and different vegetables.  Also growing are a variety of herbs, ginger, garlic, spring onion, coriander and more lemongrass. It is our intention to lease more lands with the next season to express the strengths with which we have been gifted.

Usually the most involving time on the land is when getting ready for a new planting session. It calls for tilling of the land, manure making and collection and seed preparation. As we continue restoring the natural state of land, we are also progressively inclining more towards conservation agriculture, where we will effect minimal disturbance of the soil as we plant. This will help preserve the minerals and organisms, which in addition to manure, mulching and crop rotation will ensure a more consummate ecosystem. There is less labour for the farmer too, as you don’t have to turn the soil on the whole farm or do massive weeding. Full mulching suppresses the weeds.

Mosaic team at work
After planting, when the rains are in full song, the farmer gets a respite from the farm work and one can concentrate on other endeavours, in our case, the arts. Currently the mosaic team is full steam ahead with a granite mural project. All the volunteers are fully engaged, weaving, making sandals, ornaments, cloth items and all the various other arts. Schools are out too, so there is no shortage of learners.
Young learners
During this period there are intensified efforts to reach out to art buyers, through, fairs, local and international markets, various marketing procedures and word of mouth.

Mandrill-finished mosaic art product
 It is also a season where the volunteers take time to organize events and exhibitions.These serve both as forums to share the various aspects of natural living with our communities, as well as provide opportunities for trading our arts. Music rhythms and rhymes galore.

This Dear Reader, is your official invitation…


LOVE and LIGHT always.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

COMMUNITY RELATIONS

“In this modern day, when material goals and selfish aims dominate the scene of human effort, this high professional ideal of self-sacrifice and selfless devotion to serving one’s fellow men may appear too remote, it’s demands too severe. But man is not meant to live for himself alone. He exists with others and for others, and it is this sense of social consciousness which distinguishes him from other beings.” H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Greetings of Love once again.

Volunteers at the Muranga Juvenile Home for young offenders, where we offer organic agriculture and art skills.
Ever since we have been here at Maragua farm, three years to be precise, the projection of our relations with the community has been nothing but remarkable. Intriguing even. You see, none of us was initially from around here. To say that the manner of our entrance, a ten-strong group of youthful males caused a stir would be a study in understatement.

Tree planting at the Home.
We had been offered this land, as community volunteers, to utilize for the common good of the many. The place had been laying fallow for the longest time. So we came in, strongly determined and pretty businesslike. We were not dressed in suits and ties either.

 Despite the initial suspicion from our collective hosts, we were not unduly worried. Our fortitude rested on divine guidance, the true intention of our hearts, as well as legal recognition through government registration.

Youth coming in to visit us...
The first link with this community was the innocent and adventurous children, who started visiting and found reason to keep coming back. Their parents were admittedly not keen, and there are lots of wild anecdotes on the ways they would strive to keep them away from us. As of today, the children have continued to appear at the farm in even larger populations, bringing their friends from further afield. What blessings!
...usually bringing goodies, in the ages old tradition of sharing.
Through this medium, the community members were inadvertently kept abreast with every aspect of our day to day runnings. Slowly, the ice started to thaw.

It happened naturally that we took time to first create something tangible on the farm, before we started our community outreach programs. Actions were bound to much more eloquent than words. However the daily interactions in the neighborhood, markets, and sharing of resources continued to bring us closer. Eventually, we started reaching out, especially to community institutions such as schools, hospitals, and public places to offer services and knowledge.
Volunteers teaching and learning in class
Today we have gained the trust of most people, from around and the wider community. They have embraced us and our ideas. This is not to say they have unreservedly ditched conventional farming and adopted organic agriculture which we espouse. They however do keep up with us, watching closely to see where we are going with what we do.
A tree planting session with the community.
The community has been a big support in terms of sustaining our arts. Currently it is considered neglectful for one not to own a pair of the sandals which we produce. Doors have been and continue to be opened for us in homes, community institutions, as well as in government facilities. Lots of visitors frequent the farm on a daily basis to learn and offer ideas. Exchange of original non-GMO seeds has been one of the highlights of these interactions.
Young youths helping out with sandal production.
It is a great joy, to be crowned sons and daughters of this community. Respect for all the people who had to bear with our initial ‘invasion’ and are now an added strength to our efforts. A special mention for the young ones who have graced us with their presence and continue to grow with us.

Sister Njoki weaving with some daughters from the community.
Thank you, dear readers for your unstinting appreciation. Arm in arm we march on…

MAY PEACE BE YOURS.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

CALL TO ACTION

"We know that unity can be and has been achieved among men of the most disparate origins, that differences of race, of religion, of culture, of tradition, are no insurmountable obstacles to the coming together of peoples." Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Greetings!
SHIRIKI, is a Kiswahili word which variously translates as '' to take part, participate, join in, share in, act in common, involve oneself”... you get the drift. It is a call to action, for ones to work in concert, so as to restore this earth and it's inhabitants to their original glory and majesty. Participation in what we and other like-minded people in the four corners of the globe are doing, we feel, is not a casual choice, but actually a natural obligation.
May I take this moment to give a brief breakdown of the situation on the ground so that one can discern ways in which to be a an active participant.
As you have gathered from the various updates, H.I.M Negus Shiriki Organization consists of a LIVICATED team of LIFE volunteers from all over the world, with a mission to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, nourish the sick, protect the infants and care for the aged . We are strictly non-religious, non -affiliated and non-economic mercenaries.
Volunteer Kristie, from Canada
We invite ones of the same heart, regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality to join hands with us in the tasks we have taken on. We mostly target to work with youth, to involve them in development issues. No `personal’ benefit is derived from what we do, yet, unbounded satisfaction comes from the knowledge that we are fulfilling our ultimate purpose. However, our works are progressive in all manner to the volunteers (members) and the public at large.
We have embraced work on different fronts.

With Agriculture, the main issues are re-establishing natural living, world food security, restoring land from the current chemically and environmentally degraded state, economic and social empowerment. Currently we have some three acres of land, on which we are working as a demonstration farm for natural agriculture. We have community outreach programs and are well recognized by the government administration and educational institutions. We also work closely with organizations which espouse the same values, such as Biovision, as well as individuals.
Sarah from Biovision helps build a compost heap
It is our intention to establish a full agricultural institution whereby youth, various farmers and people from all works of life can come and share knowledge. It will teach natural farming and living skills, arts, have farm based industries, cultural center, community radio and studios and a community hall. We are thus preparing volunteers through experience and education. We hope to continue sending more youth to college, so that they can qualify fornally as community educators. Currently we are making moves towards value addition and simple industry with the farm products, with an eye to spreading this knowledge amongst the communities we work with. The project will need bigger land when time is due.
We are open to receive volunteers at the farm.
Raksha and Daniella from the UK and Germany respectively
We have Education programs with different institutions and communities. Our efforts to reach out through media programs, school visits, seminars, farmer’s field days and other means continue to be effective and well received. Our latest education project is with the Muranga Juvenile home, where we will be sharing life, organic farming and art skillls with youth who are undergoing reahabilitation for delinquent behaviour. We are always looking to gather more teaching materials and aids, books, publications, presentation machinery such as projectors, laptops and so on.
More teachings
With Arts, we continue to produce artifacts of original and creative nature. The arts help instill patience among the youth, tap into natural talents, and provide an avenue for economic sustenance for those who are thus endowed. We share this knowledge through various forums and always keep an open door policy to those willing to learn. We seek more markets and exposure for these arts, as well as quality improvement suggestions.
A Sunday art class.
Musically, we continue to use this ancient medium as a powerful tool for community information sharing. It is our mandate to nurture talent and provide opportunities for exposure. One of the ways is organizing local and international events to bring people together. It behooves us to continue gathering more music and sound equipment to be effective. It is our on-going intention to enhance collaboration with like-minded artists and experts, and are happy to host those who wish to work in Africa.
Through Trade we get effective opportunities to interact with many people locally and across borders, and to exchange thoughts on real and tangible steps to lasting development. We get revenue to run the projects and set an example to the youth. We trade arts, farm products and products from our media and communication department. W e hope to carry on learning about the available trade opportunities so as to open them up for the work of talented youth, women and other productive community members.
The Media and Communications department is our link with the world at large. We have qualified volunteers producing documentaries, publications, connecting with mainstream media, and working the internet. Experts in this field are called upon to link up, so that we can enhance the available communication means. Well wishers are requested to donate any equipment which may be of help in this field.
Environment preservation and restoration is key to our work. In this field we have worked closely with the UNEP and other relevant organizations. Our environment endeavors involve public activities such as tree planting, cleanup exercises, community education forums, themed music concerts, use of natural products, organic farming and sharing of nutritional information.
Volunteers take a breather during a community clean-up exercise
Since the work targets all aspect of LIFE, there is no limit to the ways in which one can participate and contribute. It is actually our understanding that these are tasks and duties which befall humanity and thus coming together for this will not only create a better world but also provide a warm atmosphere for spiritual growth.
There are four levels of membership; individual, group, corporate and life. Please contact us on our e-mail address (shirikiorg@gmail.com), to learn about how you can join in as member, or to suggest ways in which you feel you can participate. You can also leave a message on our facebook page (Shiriki Kenya).
Perfect Love always.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

ART IS KEY

Our admiration for the Creator's handiwork should not be limited to those things He has provided us with for our daily needs, but should include all that is good and beautiful. It is these feelings of deep and silent admiration evoked from our hearts that should find adequate expression in the fine arts.” Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Blessed Love to All.

You will have noted our stated intention above, to utilize agriculture and art as the main keys to opening up the community towards a sustainable way of life. In this article, we explore ways in which application of art is proving crucial.
 Just as art is in every way in which Life divulges herself unto us, so it is in the way we express our perception of Life.

At Shiriki organization, every volunteer has the opportunity to bring out their artistic side. Some came in with the actual intention to enhance their already existing art skills, while others have pleasantly surprised themselves with their hitherto unexplored capabilities.

That art holds such a central position within the organization and amongst the individual volunteers is testament to various factors;
  • Art being a natural inclination within us, reveals itself through explicit awareness, or through the inner search, where you find a whole faculty lying dormant. 
  • Art is an universal reflexion of culture. Through carrying on the ancient traditions of artistic expression we maintain a cultured outlook, civilization. Sharing these skills generously ensures that this aspect is carried forward for the benefit of posterity.
  • Owing to the fact that worldwide there are people who appreciate art, it opens up the economic possibilities of trade.
  • Art has proven a reliable catalyst for social interaction, from whence unlimited vistas of cooperation open up before our very eyes.
The artists
At Shiriki Organization, we have been graced with various artistic skills. Among our products are clothing items, covering you head to toe; hats, scarfs, tee shirts, khaki suits, sweaters, skirts, belts, and shoes. Our sandal industry is especially progressive. Most of the items mentioned above are hand work, made through weaving, loom work, crotchet and screen printing. The sandals mostly incorporate recycled car tires.



Their products
Other art include mosaics and painting. We make the mosaics using various materials, organic and otherwise; plant fiber, seeds, ceramic tiles, glass, marble and granite. With these we do wall panels, walls, floors, flowerpots, vases, furniture and more. We take public and private commissions, size no limit. Currently the volunteers are making a forty square meter mural for a cathedral, out of granite .
Street art-making mosaics
The finished product- masaic on Parliament road. Nairobi
 The volunteers also make top level jewelery using locally available materials such as bamboo, seeds, fiber and natural stones. The items include necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. Others are made from glass beads. Adorn yourself.
Handwoven bracelets
Graphic design is also a part of what we do. The various IT skills help us in the designing of clothes, posters and publications.

There are other art skills we may not have mentioned here. The volunteers are open to learn always. To teach too. We therefore have arrangements for sharing these skills especially with the youth. The lessons happen either through the learners coming to us, school programs or our outreach community visits.

Shiriki Organization, being a volunteer arrangement, means that it has been mainly up to the members to establish and maintain sustainability and organizational progression. Art has so far been the main means through which we earn economic sustenance. Out of this we are able to fund the day to day, as well as long term plans, from member contributions. Art has been without doubt key to our endeavors to uplift and raise consciousness among our communities.

Out of the foregoing, please note that any item of art you buy from us goes towards the operations of the organization as well as to the personal development of the artist. Currently we have opened up the local markets, where people are giving good support. We also attend trade fairs throughout the country, and hold exhibitions of our own. While we have been able to trade with a few international markets, this is still an area with much potential. Should you, Dear Reader, have any suggestions, do not hesitate to wise us up.

\Sample hand woven sandal
From our experience so far, there are unlimited opportunities for art to provide economic means to community members across the board. As long as youth can learn and develop art skills, there are openings.
Ras Otii waving a mat
 Most importantly, we have also been working with other artists, especially women, young and old, learning, providing materials and helping market their products. They make Kiondo bags, weave mats, crotchet work, sewing and even making clay beads. It is a big strength all round. Whoever thought such skills are still within our people, only lacking means of exposure?

In our next post, we shall expound further on the ways in which you can actively participate in the various tasks we have taken on.

Till then...AMANI.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

CHANGE OF WEATHER OR CLIMATE CHANGE?


Man's contribution's which live to influence the life and progress of posterity, are the most permanent monuments which can ever be created. We must become increasingly willing to examine our efforts, to experiment, to admit our failures as we take pride in our successes.” Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Greetings all, from rainy Maragua! Giving thanks for LIFE, ever precious.

A family meal
The farmer is rightly famed for wisdom. The esoteric quality of being able to read signs and seasons. The ability to determine the exact time for sowing, and subsequently reap a bounty and feed the nation. The oneness with the ordered nature.

What perchance happens, when the long-trusted weather patterns suddenly go haywire? Rains in February and the sun in July? Well, in this modern age, the suits and skirts rush into almighty countless conferences held in far flung venues, to debate the new 'climate change' phenomenon. The poor man's burden. But what about our wise farmer?

These are some of the issues confronting the tillers of the land, as we experience an unprecedented wet September, a month which is traditionally identified with scorching weather. In tandem with modern weather patterns in many parts of the globe, the continued mix up of seasons has many farmers in a mad rush. Not quite the normal dignified gait.
Tilling the land
Take this last February, for instance. We got rains in February, one and half months before the conventional planting season. No one knew whether the rains would continue or soon cease. Eventually, farmers ended up second guessing, leading to good harvests for some and woe for those who mistimed.
Ras Ambasa tends to sorghum
September is right after the harvest. Farmers have up to mid October to prepare for the new season, while drying up their grains and seeds in the abundant sunshine. Well, not anymore. It is already raining THINGS! You will now find groups of community members huddled by the roadside fiercely cerebrating on whether to plant or not. Because you cannot afford to buy seeds twice. Regardless they do have to buy seeds, having abandoned the old ways and embraced the laboratory seeds being distributed by government ministries and other sellers. The second generation of these seeds is usually too weak to replant.
Sowing
At the Him Negus Shiriki C. B. O's farm, it is fortunately not so much of a dilemma. This is for one, owing to the fact that we have inter-cropped the farm with a good variety of crops. The short-timers, seasonal, annuals, biennials, perennials and so on. This ensures that sowing and reaping is a continuous exercise, regardless of season. In contrast, many farmers have been caught up mono-cropping, inevitably maize around here, heavily relying on nature's inclination to keep time.

Providing employment for local youth
Secondly, we have maintained a policy of only planting original seeds which have not been interfered with. This way, as it has been for millenniums, we are able to replant the harvested seeds, crop after crop, to good effect. Through local, regional and international networks, we continue to uplift seed exchange and preservation endeavors.

Thirdly, irrigation. For the earth to restore a secure sustenance for it's inhabitants, it calls the farmers to liven up and install themselves on their land parcels throughout the year, as opposed to waiting for the seasons. This is through individual, communal and government efforts to ensure there is access to water, with which ones can farm. Wells, boreholes, reservoirs, dams and conscientious utilization of rivers and lakes.
Ras Nganga and helpers, preparing tree nurseries 
Meanwhile, on the nine o’clock news, the latest conference, to brainstorm the causes and solutions for the changing weather patterns. Cocktails after.

On the ground, the farmers just have to figure things out for themselves. Wisdom does get severely tested, yet you can always count on it to prevail. There are really no two choices to that.
Ras Seru with a Hibiscus harvest
May the rains shew countless BLESSINGS, upon you all, diligent servants of the life-nurturing soil.

PEACE.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

PROGRESS- AN APPRECIATION

"The people themselves must come to realize their own difficulties in the development of their community and try to solve them by collective participation following an order of priority and taking their potentiality into account. " H.I.M Haile Selassie I.
It is with full joy that we at Shiriki (H.I.M. Negus Shiriki Community Based Organization), take this opportunity to utter thanksgiving for continued well-being and tangible progress.
First to the Divine, the Infinite Intelligence that guides and orders LIFE.
The Volunteers
Shiriki organization represents the manifestation of the willing hearts of a number of youthful and courageous volunteers who have been brought together by a desire to be instruments of service. We have been graced with the strength to persist through the challenges and triumphs that such a choice brings. Our field of service is unlimited. However, we realize that through addressing issues relating to the basics-food, clothing and shelter, a foundation for a peaceful and ultimately livable earth are laid. We further recognize the paramount position of agriculture in the provision of these needs, which in themselves determine our very survival.
Unbounded appreciation for the efforts of the Shiriki volunteers who continue to keep this fire burning.

Volunteers

In subsequent posts, we shall be profiling the different volunteers, so that you may get to know them better.


Volunteers Kristie and Githaka enjoying a sugarcane break
The Mission

Having gained valuable experience working with communities in the Kibera slums of Nairobi and in the hot climes of Kitui, eastern Kenya, the year 2012 saw us embark on this mission, in Maragua, Central Kenya.
A well-wisher, who is a prominent world personality in the establishing of sustainable communities, offered us a three acre piece of land. This was in response to our wish to set up an institution where knowledge on natural farming methods can be disseminated. We heartily embarked on this endeavor, knowing that this will be an opportunity to continue learning, especially from practical experience and the traditional wisdom. To provide hope for the youth. To stoke the embers of long forgotten community cooperation and self-help and to demonstrate solutions on how people all over the world can take control of their own destiny.
This is an appreciation for all those who have supported and continue to strengthen these efforts in myriad ways.
Ras Ng'ang'a sharing skills
The Method

We came to this place with various educational experiences, practical knowledge and unrestrained zeal. Most of all, with an open mind. The PLAN, to utilize all we have on our side, especially day to day divine guidance, so as to stimulate a renewed push in this community towards a long term consciousness of their natural capacities and responsibilities. Thus eliminating the unfortunate scourge of hunger, disease and illiteracy, same of which plague man's efforts to live a fuller and healthier life.
Our task then involved the physical efforts of reclaiming this farm which had long been unused, imbibing crucial lessons along the way from the experience, from our neighbours' collective involvement on the land and from published information which would help restore this parcel as a natural food source. Without use of harmful chemicals, GMOs, all any other human efforts to circumvent and shortcut life's processes.
Ras Muthui tends to tomatoes

Our appreciation to the community here at Maragua, who have embraced us with so much love, and who continue to be most helpful and willing. Together we grow to higher heights still.


The Progress
It is now getting to three years since the Shiriki volunteers have been at the Maragua farm. Broken down, the first year was spent settling in, with all the hard physical labour to reclaim the land. Not to mention the day to day challenge of providing sustenance for a number of hungry volunteers. As well as integrating in a completely new environment.
Wambui and Kristie preparing cowpea greens for dinner
The second year involved much trial and error to identify the suitable crops for this land. Not just ones which can grow here, but those which have proved over generations to ensure long term food security, nutrition, favour the climate, replenish the soil other than drain it. Those that have capacity to be foundation raw material for local industries. For these purposes we identified ground foods like cassava, arrowroot, sweet potato, grains such as sorghum, legumes such as green gram, cow peas and pigeon peas. Other foods include local vegetables such as amaranth, spider herb, African nightshade, ' murenda' , mitoo and others. Hibiscus, Bananas, sugarcane and various fruits and fruit trees- passion, guava, avocado, mango, papaw. Herbs and spices, lemongrass, garlic, chillies, ginger, coriander and onion.
Ras Muchina plants papaw

The third year has been more settled, with the volunteers now taking time to green up the land with the aforementioned foods and enjoying a good supply of nourishment from the parcel. It also represents a period where we are reaping the benefits of good community relations, with the people, the government authorities, non-government institutions,schools and hospitals all willing and happy to work hand in hand with us. The period has also seen us receiving and working with more volunteers, especially local youth. The farmers from this and the wider community also continue showing great interest, and reaching out for knowledge and seed exchange.
Indigenous vegetables  (Mitoo)

The Position
The mood at the 'camp' is upbeat and determined as ever. The experience and the inner growth, adds a spring to a sure step. Dear Reader, do not hesitate to be a part of this energy, should it resonate with you.
Our current position is a readiness to take the project to the next phase. This is the where we address the issues of surplus, preservation of harvested food, and economic independence. It will be done through local industry, value addition. With the farm products we are now well placed to dry, mill into flours, bake, pack, juice, and trade.
Garlic and Sugarcane at the farm
For this, we will require certain facilities, including a food drier, baking oven, flour mill, and cane juicer. Currently the volunteers are researching on the suitable options for these, as well as raising the funds for their purchase. It is our intention that the model we are setting here be suitable for replication, both locally and internationally, so that working in concert, the world communities can continue to be sustainable and in harmony with our ecosystems.
We invite you to freely share your views and comments.
Thank you.


Friday, 12 October 2012

One Year on; Still Going on Strong

by Ras Benaiah Gicuki
It’s now slightly over one year since Shiriki Organization initiated a community project at Maragua based mainly on natural farming techniques. The project was started with a long-term objective of establishing a community agricultural training centre which would be of benefit to the immediate as well as the neighboring communities. Our immediate goals are to ensure food security and environment conservation and restoration, to be achieved through seeking natural and modern methods of agriculture.
So far, we wish to express lots of gratitude first to the Almighty Creator who has been our primary inspiration and source of life, then to the community of Maragua area which warmly welcomed us to be part of them despite being total strangers to them, and also to all people near and far who have assisted us in a way or another or who have keenly followed our progress. Without your support and cooperation, our highly esteemed ends will remain only but a fleeting illusion!
To have rehabilitated an almost 2-acre coach-grass infested parcel of land, and put it under an intercrop of indigenous food-crops, trees and herbs without the use of chemicals; this could not be achieved by lazy nor rash men. This, again, could be nothing short of a miracle before the eyes of local farmers who apparently cannot bear the burden of the expensive and intoxicating chemicals imposed upon them by capitalistic investors in the agricultural sector.
Then - early in the project
Now - a plot of Ethiopian kales and spinach

Natural farming, as compared to chemical farming where a farmer can easily eliminate a given pest, weed or disease and can maintain a luxuriant field of crops, calls for patience coupled with a high sense of consciousness and discipline. These God-given virtues are quite uncommon among the youths of today, but I believe they are inherent in all humans for man is made in the likeness of the Creator. Additionally, for one to embark and stand resolute in organic farming, it is equivalent to entering into a battlefront where one’s strength of arms and determination really matter. This being so, it calls for unified efforts at the onslaught, this backing an old adage that ‘unity is strength’. We can therefore proudly attribute our progress so far to the Inity (unity) of brothers and sisters having a common interest of restoring our land and wealth. An ancient elder, when sharing his wise-mind the other day, found us tilling the field when he remarked that a home without the young men is always vulnerable to attacks. The interpretation to this is that through the massive exodus of youth from the rural to the cities and towns has left the aged and a few youth remnants to be easily deceived into use of chemical. And it is clear that the more the knowledgeable and strong youth continues to be away from the land, the worse the situation gets, meaning it will take much more sacrifice to restore sanity in this occupation. 


Organic & Inity! the only strength to overcome 'deadly shortcuts'
Chemical! lush cucumbers at the neighbor's
It is not the strength nor the will, nor the determination of those who fight us that will lead to our downfall but the weakness of our unity. This wise teaching has been a constant source of encouragement to nurture the seed of Inity (unity) which the Almighty JAH in His Love has sown within our hearts.
 
Loyal Volunteers

Our two latest volunteers, Ras Mwangi and Ras Mathaara, who entered the camp in mid July, have grown in this communal Livity to become epitomes of spirited and disciplined young farmers. The couple abandoned the dull lives they were used to back in the ghetto when they realized the need to serve the community through Shiriki Organization and thus reap the mutual and manifold benefits.

“I have Livicated myself for an indefinite period of time and I&I want when I break from the camp to have graduated in this institution of natural way of life…” says Ras Mwangi, adding, “One of my first lessons was how to irrigate young crops. The brother guided I on how to water young beans, and now to see the fruit thereof it heals I&I!” This he says as we harvest the first fruits of indigenous beans that is currently nourishing the volunteers.  For Ras Mathaara, he hardly leaves the farm, tending the humble plants.
It is within that first year of our activities in the farm at Maragua that we have seen one of our highly cherished visions come to fruition – that of acquiring expert training in food production and farm management. In this vein, Ras Rukundo, a volunteer whose Livication has been of immeasurable value, embarked on an expert training course in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in the prestigious Baraka Agricultural College, Molo (www.sustainableag.org). The 18-month course is just but the beginning of a long-term venture of seeking and sharing expert knowledge in the agricultural value chain and rural development.


Ras Mwangi (L) and I on a beans harvest
Ras Rukundo with a local family.
Experience is the best teacher, so the saying goes, and it can’t fit better than in the enterprise of farming. The one year that we have been in the field has taught us crucial lessons that will guide us in future seasons. The lessons span right from seed to fruit, entailing land preparation, techniques of breaking seed dormancy, sowing and spacing, watering and caring, pest and disease control, as well as harvesting and preserving. By now, we have been able to study a few of the crops with their respective potentials, all this with an aim of identifying the best suited ones for this area that will lead us to processing and packaging the surplus thereby reviving agro-industries in the rural communities.
Beans under irrigation have given us a very positive result, while cassava which we planted right on our arrival and have kept planting on daily basis has been to us like an underground food-bank. Comphrey, Ethiopian kale and spinach add to this list. They have only mild pest/disease attacks, these being the daunting enemies in the course of production. On the flip side we have had corn for the April – August season, which was a poor performer not only in our farm but also to the majority of farmers in Kenya. Consequently, we’ve decided to reduce investment on maize and try sorghum in the forthcoming season for sustainability. Myself I look forward to the day when this highly dominating food-crop, and which is so demanding in terms of input, will cede its dominance and allow for the restoration of Afrikan indigenous cereals such as the nutritious millet and sorghum, just but a few examples.

A good performance of beans under irrigation
Indigenous bananas and cassava plantation

With the coming of a new season whose rains are increasingly showing the signs of arrival, and with the beginning of the second year of our project, our vision of a sustained Afrika slowly comes to reality. We, who have advanced in this mission, have vowed not to relent in our efforts until all the hungry are fed. We urge fellow youth to take up agriculture as a learning course and as an occupation, knowing that despite its neglect and the sabotage upon farmers, without farming there can be no food which is the stuff of life for all. 

“If only [Ethiopia], with an assured wealth of natural resources, would look at what the barren Sahara Desert has been made to produce by the endeavour of trained scientists, she would realize that science is a source of wealth.” H.I.M. Haile Selassie I


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